Burkina Faso: ‘Assassins’ on trial

Thomas Sankara was assassinated in 1987. He had been in power for four years, after a coup put him there. Those accused of killing him will finally go on trial in October.

The then president of Burkina Faso had changed too many things and made too many enemies, particularly among those in the West who still sought to control Africa’s future. He joined the likes of Patrice Lumumba in dying for it.

Not that his was an unblemished record. Under Sankara’s presidency, those who disagreed with his path paid for it. Political opponents were jailed or killed. 

His actions were both small and big, symbolic and dramatic.

On assuming the presidency, Sankara sold off his government’s fleet of Mercedes and replaced them with the cheapest Renault on the market. Schools were built, land redistributed, children were vaccinated at hitherto unseen rates, farms sown and railways extended, all while rejecting organisations such as the International Monetary Fund.

Sankara’s story has become emblematic of the post 1960s era of Africa, where popular politicians sought to steer their countries away from foreign influence, before being murdered by people happy to replace them and then happy to return to the status quo of Western profiteering.

In Burkina Faso France was the former colonial power.

Blaise Compaoré has gone down in history as the man directly responsible for the assasination. He will stand trial in the capital Ouagadougou, along with 13 other co-accused.

Compaoré seized control after Sankara died and ruled for 27 years.

He was overthrown in the 2014 Burkinabé uprising, after mass demonstrations. This took place after he tried to change the constitution so he could run for president again.

A warrant for his arrest was issued the year after. He denies being involved in the assassination. 

First published in The Continent

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The Continent is a free weekly newspaper published by the Adamela Trust in partnership with the Mail & Guardian.

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